Article by Kevin Steeves.
It would be difficult to think of a harder working — or at least busier — Portland musician in the last six months than Evan Parker, the primary songwriter and vocalist of if and it.
At the tail-end of last year the band released the no-fuss lo-fi EP Ratpig while being holed up in a cabin in rural New Hampshire for a weekend, and in the last two months the band released a pair of aesthetically opposing albums. In May, the band released the Americana-endowed Sparkly Gold to critical acclaim for its take on rootsy jangly-pop, and last month brought the release of the more straight-ahead rocker Bleeding Moon which like Ratpig, was recorded in a few days — this time in the Southern Maine agricultural holdout of Gray.
Although much of the initial press behind the duo of releases has been focused on the differentiating studio techniques, Parker said that he sees the difference in methods as just a natural extension of the initial writing and recording process. While Sparkly Gold was largely conceived at Forest City Studios in South Portland with help from Ron Harrity of Pepod Recordings; Bleeding Moon was a slightly more casual affair with more in common to the similarly low-key affair of Ratpig, and was recorded at drummer Chris Dibiasio’s house before getting a few final touches by Harrity.
“Production is important but we don’t like to limit ourselves going into a project,” said Parker, adding. “You know, thinking it has to sound a certain way, or have a certain feel. Our approach is really organic and accepting of the natural elements that surround us.”
While both Sparkly Gold and Bleeding Moon were released a mere six weeks apart from each other, Parker is also quick to differentiate the two and the quick rush to establish a chronology between the two.
“That was unexpected. There is no reason behind these albums coming out at the same time and there is no connection with their names,” said Parker. “They are very different animals and should not be seen as connected albums. They just both happened to be ready at the same time.”
Although the two albums aren’t purposefully connected they do share one common tie: the pair showcases the Parker-lead project at the top of its game, whose four-year evolution since the understated debut Princess Bunny & The Rocket is difficult to ignore.
Parker is infinitely more focused and self-assured as a songwriter in this pair of albums than his still impressive former releases, but the expansion in 2010 to a full-band lineup has only allowed his vision to reach far beyond what was assumed possible in the debut.
Bleeding Moon standout “The Key,” is a percussive start-and-stop that directs the focus directly on Parker’s wavering vocals while the ever-so-slightly distortion of his guitar leads the track into a twisting and abrupt conclusion.
“The gold in the trees forms a pattern in the trees/ Won’t you sweetly sing to me?/ For lost in the breeze an old cold dying disease/the beautiful places we may never see,” the longing and contemplative nature of Parker’s songwriting from the earliest if and it releases is still present — but the full band accompaniment does the track wonders for increasing the breadth of the Parker’s lyrical strength.
And this is exactly why Bleeding Moon might just be the the strongest album yet from if and it, instead of moving his songwriting style into more complicated and grand statements to go along with the full-band lineup that has become if and it, Parker has stood his ground and become more sure of the excellent songwriting that has always been at the core of the project.